Lawyers representing the government have claimed that a judicial review brought by the Good Law Project (GLP) into the awarding of PPE contracts is not in the ‘public interest’.
The Good Law Project brought a judicial review against the government in regards to contracts awarded to three companies: PestFix, Ayanda Capital, and Clandeboyne. In defending itself, the government has attempted to claim that the review is not in the public interest, as well as trying to force the GLP into dropping the case by outspending them.
As of the 23rd December, the government revealed it had so far spent a total of £327,475.39, and expect to spend up to £1 million (not including VAT) of taxpayers money on defending themselves in court. Typically, government spending would rarely exceed £100,000 in judicial review proceedings. The GLP is crowdfunding their case against the government. They believe that if their spending exceeds £350,000 they will be forced to abandon the judicial review.
Government contracts have long been under scrutiny, with an investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealing that the government had spent £18 billion by 31st July 2020, £10.5 billion of which was awarded without competitive tendering. They discovered that many of the contracts were awarded retrospectively, and much of the documentation was missing. Such documentation is supposed to detail why a particular supplier was chosen, consideration of risks, or the management of conflicts of interests. The government also delayed publishing contracts, with only 25% of contracts worth over £25,000 being made public within 90 days.
The judicial review is investigating three companies who received PPE contracts.
Ayanda Capital, a capital investment fund with no healthcare experience, received a £252 million contract for 50 million facemasks. The deal was brokered by Andrew Mills, an advisor to the firm, as well as to Liz Truss, Minister for International Trade. Their face masks were later found to be faulty. The company is also registered in Mauritius, a known tax haven.
PestFix, a small pest control firm, was awarded a £170 million contract for face masks. In 2019, the whole company was only worth £18,000. Two of the three types of masks they supplied turned out to be faulty. The NAO also found that PestFix was added to the ‘high-priority lane‘ in error. The high-priority lane was established by the Cross-Government PPE Team to manage potential PPE contracts referred by ‘government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and Lords, senior NHS staff and other health professionals‘. This scheme has led to accusations of cronyism and corruption at high levels of the government.
The final firm, Clandeboyne, a confectionary company, was awarded a £107 million contract for 25 million gowns. The NAO found that financial checks of the company had been completed retrospectively, only to be rated ‘red‘.